7 Hotel Etiquette Rules You Might Be Breaking During Your Stay – Southern Living

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Some rules don’t apply on vacation. Go ahead and turn off that alarm. Kicking off happy hour a bit before 5 p.m.? Why not? And that office dress code-approved apparel? It can stay in the closet, in lieu of beachy or more casual attire.

Still, some rules—including proper etiquette—still apply, no matter how far you are from home.

According to Mary Helen Law, a Rome, Georgia-based founder of Law Luxury Travel, who has 6 years of experience professionally planning trips in her role as a luxury travel advisor, “The Golden Rule will never not apply to etiquette surrounding any service industry, hospitality included. Is it obvious? Perhaps, but it still warrants repeating.”

We asked a trio of travel pros, including Law, to give us a refresher about manners matters in relation to hotels so we can all enjoy our home away from home—and leave an impression as golden as those picturesque sunsets.

Meet The Experts

Jonathan Alder, a Winter Park, Florida-based luxury travel advisor and founder of Jonathan’s Travels, has plenty of practice mastering all things hotel etiquette. He’s visited all 7 continents across 72 countries personally, and has planned more than 30,000 client trips (and counting).

Alder confirms that “the most common mistakes the average traveler makes when staying at a hotel are often simple things that are easily fixable.” 

Phew! Read on for a handful of the most common hotel etiquette mistakes, plus what to do instead.

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1. Not Familiarizing Yourself With Rates And Fees

Just like it’s wise to brush up on the prices on the restaurant menu before suggesting it as a gathering place for a group with members who have different budget allowances, it’s best to look into all of the finer details on the finance front related to your hotel stay prior to departure. This includes the room rate, as well as any hotel or resort fees, WiFi charges, parking rates, taxes, and fees for early check-in or late check-out, if applicable.

“Understanding what fees you’ll pay in addition to the room rate ahead of time limits any frustrations or surprises upon arrival,” says Alan Klein, regional director of operations for Driftwood Hospitality Management with hotel locations across the U.S. (including several in the South) and internationally. 

These are usually clearly marked on all reservation websites, Klein adds, but if anything seems unclear,  feel free to ask questions. Questions are always a better path than becoming combative or walking away unsure and upset.

“I promise we have heard almost every question you can imagine. We get that not understanding something can cause frustration and negatively impact your stay,” Klein says, adding that the staff would love to help.

2. Overlooking The Importance Of Timing

Speaking of check-in and check-out time, “be familiar with the hotel’s check-in and check-out times, which the front desk will inform you of during check-in,” Klein says. “While hotels do their best to accommodate early arrivals or late check-outs, it may not always be possible, as properties often have nearly all the rooms checking out. They need to be cleaned and turned around for a new guest the same day.”

Adhering to the listed times allows the hotel to manage the rooms and meet all guests’ expectations, and will save you from the potential of being charged for an extra night.

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3. Acting Like Staff Is “The Help”

“Treat others how you want to be treated” is the basic premise behind the Golden Rule that Law mentioned earlier, and this definitely holds true for every member on the hotel team. 

We know you might arrive feeling tired, and totally get that “lack of sleep and heightened stress can contribute to less-than-pleasant attitudes sometimes,” Law admits. “But if you are short with someone, go back and apologize when the situation has calmed. In an industry where staff is often treated poorly, I can promise an apology will be appreciated.”

The mutual respect process should begin at check-in, Klein says.

“Our team works in the hospitality industry because they love interacting with people. While it’s not necessary to do so, the guests who engage in friendly banter may find themselves in an upgraded room type or have something special delivered to their room,” he says. “Our team is trained to surprise and delight, so if they can learn something about our guest, we can make their stay more enjoyable through our service.”

If that magic moment doesn’t arrive automatically, remember that you can ask, and might just receive.

“Hotel team members are real, genuine people. We love interacting with others and providing our guests an amazing, hospitable experience. We love what we do, and if there is something you ever need, asking us in a kind, genuine way will get you the most incredible responses and suggestions,” Klein says.

4. Forgetting Who—And How Much—To Tip

One easy way to show the hotel team how much you appreciate them: cash tips.

Proper tipping etiquette varies widely based on where you’re visiting around the world (“tipping is looked upon as inappropriate in international destinations like Japan,” Alder says, although it’s commonplace in America). Within the U.S., Law says that “my general rule is that if you are touching me or my belongings, you should receive a tip,” which means that housekeeping staff and bell staff are very much included. As should be anyone in a service position involved with the on-site restaurants, including in-room dining, and the valet.

Exactly how much you tip is up to you, but the experts we spoke to recommend:

  • Restaurant staff: 20 percent
  • Bell staff: $2 to $3 per bag
  • Housekeeping staff: $5 to $10 per night 
  • Valet: $2 to $5 at pick-up, depending on the distance of retrieval

“Because housekeepers can change daily, the best practice is to tip nightly to ensure the correct person is receiving the tip. Write a note or put cash on your pillow so housekeepers know the money is for them. Otherwise, they may assume you left it out accidentally,” Law recommends. 

For a personal touch, if you’re traveling with kids, ask them to draw a picture to leave with a short, grateful note. 

“I also like to tip anyone that goes above and beyond to enhance my stay. I’ve tipped the maintenance team and concierges as well, and it is always appreciated,” Klein says.

5. Making Too Much Noise

In addition to being courteous to the crew, it’s important to remain mindful of other guests. 

“This may seem like common sense, but it’s understandably easy to forget where you are when walking the halls of a hotel or resort when other guests aren’t visible. And while respecting quiet hours in the evening might come naturally, reading the atmosphere of the lobby and other common spaces during the day is equally as important,” Law says.

Be cognizant of your surroundings and the environment around you, and respect others’ personal space and peace. Yes, even if you’re celebrating a birthday or bachelorette party.

If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to book your lodging and plan activities accordingly. Minors aren’t allowed on all properties or in certain areas, such as pools, on the grounds of others. 

“Research is key, which is why it can be helpful to utilize a travel specialist to advise on suitable properties for each experience,” Law says.

6. Raiding The Merchandise

That half-used travel-sized bottle of body wash is yours for the taking, as is the package of Q Tips you opened to use one or two from. But beyond that, and besides any turn-down service amenities provided by the staff or anything you purchase from the mini bar, pretty much everything should remain in the room after you check out. 

“You would be surprised by some of the things people try to take with them after traveling,” Law admits. “Full-size bottles of bath products that are usually screwed in the wall? Not okay. Raiding a housekeeping cart? Also frowned upon. Hotel robes and towels? You will likely be charged. Use common sense. Just because it isn’t bolted down doesn’t mean it’s yours to take home.”

7. Heading Straight To The Internet With Feedback

You’re not a burden to ask for what you need or bring up any issues during your stay, Klein says. In fact, that’s leaps and bounds better than departing disgruntled, then leaving a negative internet review or blasting a hotel on social media, Law adds.

“Larger hotel brands might not be highly affected by your online outrage, but smaller boutique hotels and resorts certainly will be,” Law explains.

To offer feedback in the most productive way, Klein recommends asking when and where would be the ideal place to chat with someone on staff about the situation. Usually, this is a quieter space away from the front desk. Calmly and honesty explain the situation, keeping in mind the fact that you’re interacting with another human being who is doing their best to make your stay as serene as possible.

“This will also help them better understand what the issue is and they will usually be more eager to fix the situation,” Alder says.

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